For eight years, 97-year-old Grace Watanabe called the Symphony Residences of Lincoln Park home.
But Watanabe has been removed from the senior living facility, after Cook County authorities say several employees stole more than a half a million dollars from her bank account.
The accusations have stunned some residents.
"I feel like that shouldn’t have happened there," resident Peter Brown said.
“I’ve never seen such widespread corruption at a nursing home before," acting Cook County Public Guardian Charles Golbert said.
The Cook County’s Public Guardian office had been the ones to discover the alleged thefts, when Watanabe’s banking institution reached out to them.
"This was a woman who made very modest withdrawals, for years and years," Golbert said. "And then all of a sudden checks for tens of thousands of dollars started going out to strangers."
The public guardian says the employees wrote checks for as much as $25,000 to $50,000 at any given time and copies of those checks have been included in a lawsuit against those employees and the parent company of Symphony Residences.
“The employees ranged from the very top of the finance manager to the activities director to the hairdresser at the nursing home to the receptionist,” Golbert said.
Watanabe suffers from dementia and the county’s public guardian has been watching over her because the 97-year-old has no surviving relatives.
In statement, a Symphony spokesperson said “the employees suspected of involvement are no longer employed at the facility and all staff were retrained in company policies relating to receiving gifts from residents and their families. The team at the residences has done everything in its power to prevent this from happening again.”
“Ms. Watanabe had no family visiting, so she was vulnerable so that is how this happened,” Golbert said.
Chicago police have launched a criminal investigation and the public guardian has started to work on getting the money back.